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Bahrain: Celebrations, commemorations, and demonstrations

Bahrain is approaching the end of a ten-day holiday to celebrate both its National Day and Eid Al Adha, which has seen tragedy as well as joy. December 16 is Bahrain’s National Day, and the following day celebrates the King’s accession to the throne (عيد الجلوس), but it is also a day on which the opposition mark ‘Martyrs’ Day’, commemorating the people who died during the 1990s while fighting for political reform. During demonstrations this year one man died, creating another ‘martyr’, and increasing tension on the streets of the kingdom.

Celebration of the nation
We start on a positive note, however, with a photo from Ammaro showing some festive lighting on the occasion of National Day:

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Photo credit: Ammaro.com

Shaima Al Watani expresses her love of Bahrain:

خلجات كثيرة تعتمر في صدري .. فاليوم يوم الوطن .. يوم الأرض التي ولدنا عليها .. ونموت عليها ..

Many emotions fill my heart…Today is the day of the nation…The day of the land on which we were born…and on which we will die…

Plus ça change?
Not everyone is experiencing such intense emotion; LuLu is apparently stuck in a rut:

Happy National Day
Happy Coronation Day
Condolences on Martyrs Day

THIRTY-SIX Years later, I turn to the TV to watch our leaders give the same old speech, I wait a bit longer to watch the same old national dance, I get on youtube to watch the same old protest video, then I turn to our good old online discussion forums to read the same arguments over and over. It then hits me that, as part of the silent majority, my main concern is for the 10-day vacation. I also realize then that I have nothing to do those ten days except blog…
So how do you feel today?

Father of the nation
By coincidence, this week also saw the first anniversary of the death of Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri, the ‘spiritual leader’ of Bahrain's Shia population and of the political uprising during the 1990s. Samia Hassan addresses him:

معذرةًً أيها الشيخ.. هذه الجزيرة لا تزال تشتاق لقرص الحرية..

Apologies, oh Sheikh… This island is still craving the taste of freedom…

In remembrance
Maroon Al Ras gives some background to ‘Martyrs’ Day':

الجدير بالذكر أن 17 ديسمبر من كل عام، هو يوم الشهداء في البحرين، ففيه سقط أول شهيدين في انتفاضة التسعينات، وهما: هاني خميس، وهاني الوسطي رحمهما الله تعالى

One should note that December 17 of each year is Martyrs’ Day in Bahrain, on which the first martyrs of the uprising of the nineties fell, namely Hani Khamis and Hani Al Wasti, may they rest in peace.

Lizardo is uncompromising:

We’re not forgetting or forgiving
its not our right anyway
there is a right and it should go back to its owner
for Bahrain for the land
for our heros

Hayat remembers those who died:

في السابع عشر من الشهر الجاري احتفى بعض الأخوة بعيد الشهداء .. شهداء الوطن الذين سطروا أروع التضحية و الفداء من أجل وطن حر ينعم مواطنيه بحقوقهم و حريتهم…

On the seventeenth of this month some brothers marked Martyrs’ Day… Martyrs of the nation who made the most glorious sacrifice for the sake of a free nation whose citizens enjoy their rights and freedom…

Mohammed AlMaskati is also grateful:

ستظل دماء شهدائنا تروي شجرة الحرية، وستظل ذكراهم تبقى في قلوبنا و عقولنا

The blood of our martyrs will continue to water the tree of freedom, and their memory will remain in our hearts and minds…

Tragic death
During demonstrations on ‘Martyrs’ Day’, one of the demonstrators died; Mahmood’s Den was the first English blog to report the news:

I’ve just received a report that a Ali Jassim Mohammed, a 31 year old, was taken to the International Hospital about two hours ago in an unconscious state due to tear-gas exposure fired at a demonstration in Jidd Haffs.
He was one of many taking part to commemorate the contentious “Martyr’s Day” which the opposition wants to commemorate annually on the 17th of December, a day which has been inaugurated by the authorities as the “King’s Ascension Day”. The Ministry of Interior apparently issued a press release in which it stated that Ali’s death was due to a heart attack rather than tear-gas related. There are currently serious riots going on at the mortuary between the demonstrators and the police.

Reaction
The news of Ali Jassim's death led to more demonstrations and riots; for pictures and video clips see here, here, here, and here.

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Photo credit: Gulf Daily News

Mohammed AlMaskati salutes the youth who were demonstrating:

أنتم نبض هذا الوطن، … أنتم شرف هذا الوطن و عزه، أنتم من رفض هذه المهازل التي نعيشها بسكوتنا

You are the pulse of this nation…you are the honour of this nation and its pride, you reject the farce we are living by our silence…

Ali Abdulemam gives a personal perspective to the story:

تحدثت أخت الشهيد السعيد علي جاسم عن أخاها الذي يستعد لاستقبال مولوده خلال الشهرين القادمين، وأنه في آخر كلماته التي نطق بها كان يوصيهم بزوجته وإبنه المرتقب، وأضافت أنه اشترى كل احتياجات طفله المرتقب “عدا سرير لم يستطع شرائه”

Ali Jassim's sister said that her brother was ready to welcome a baby in the coming months, and that amongst the last things he said was that he was entrusting them with his wife and expected child, and he added that he had bought all the child's requirements expect for a bed, that he hadn't been able to buy.

The bigger picture
Mahmood is frustrated:

Ali is reportedly recently married and was awaiting his first born soon. May his soul rest in peace.
Ours; however, will probably continue to be tormented by this ridiculous push-and-pull relationship between some elements of the opposition and the regime both of whom so far have failed to resolve their points of difference. Their dialogue, if at all it exists, can’t be anything but like a conversation between two deaf and dumb people with neither side prepared to listen. … How difficult is it really to recognise our shortcomings and work together toward an equitable resolution?

LuLu tried to put the events into context:

I have to say that I tried my best to stay away from this issue, simply because as everyone else, I don't know all the facts. I don't know if tear gas can kill a person, and I don't really know if it was police brutality that killed Ali Jassim Makki. But responsibility extends beyond the direct act of murder. Ali Jassim and hundreds with him were out there because it was their way of demonstrating their grievances. … We look around and we see naturalization (tajnees), corruption, unfairness, sectarianism.. yet many of us keep quiet because we can still live comfortable lives without getting involved. The problem is, not all of us have this comfortable life. These demonstrations are an act of desperation, and all government measures and anti-demonstration laws will not make it go away. … Supporting a “reformist” agenda espoused by the King cannot be separated from supporting the right of free expression and public demonstration. In any case Jassim and people like him don't really know or care to know about our anti-demonstration law, our independent investigation committees, or even the International Declaration for Human Rights that we signed apparently. They want to know that their government is not stealing their wealth, perpetuating their poverty, or selling their country to foreigners. Until the leadership is ready to treat its people as citizens (not subjects), no amount of government propaganda can change this sad situation.

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